Iraq Oil Report's Daily Brief compiles the most important news and analysis about Iraq from around the web.

In Iraq, legal dispute threatens chances at 2020 Olympics

Khalil Jalil writes for AFP:

Day after day, Iraqi weightlifter Safaa Rashed Aljumaili hits a worn-down Baghdad gym to train for the 2020 Olympics. But despite all his grit, politics could keep him from competing.

"We don't know what to do anymore. I have to participate in six qualifier tournaments to get to Tokyo, but I've already missed two because of the problems in sport in this country," says the 29-year-old.

These "problems" are a spiralling dispute between the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the country's Ministry of Youth and Sports, a power struggle that has left aspiring Olympians without the necessary funds to train properly.

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Two years after a disastrous referendum, Iraq’s Kurds are prospering

The Economist reports:

The monitor recording the descent of a drill beneath the green hills of Khor Mor, in Iraqi Kurdistan, flashes 3,044—or just over 3km. In a caravan next to a roaring derrick a Canadian oilman and his team from Crescent Petroleum, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, watch for the first signs of gas. Other wells in the area are already meeting 80% of the electricity needs of Kurdistan. Capacity at an adjoining processing plant is set to double. The Kurds could begin supplying the rest of Iraq with gas by next year, says Falah Mustafa, the foreign minister for the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). Exports of gas to Europe via Turkey could follow in 2022.

Such confidence signals an about-turn for Iraq’s Kurds, who enjoy relative autonomy from the rest of Iraq. In 2017 the enclave’s leaders reached for more, recklessly holding a referendum on independence, which passed overwhelmingly. The central government in Baghdad responded by booting Kurdish militias, known as the Peshmerga, out of oil-rich Kirkuk. It ended budgetary support for the regional government and, with the help of Turkey and Iran, closed its airspace and some border crossings. Western leaders abandoned the Kurds; foreigners fled the region. Masoud Barzani, Kurdistan’s humiliated president, resigned and left a power vacuum. Independence did not happen.

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The kidnapped Yazidi children who don’t want to be rescued from ISIS

Liz Sly writes for The Washington Post:

Early last month, an informant offered a tip to one of the Yazidi leaders engaged in tracking down members of the minority faith who are still missing after being abducted by the Islamic State five years ago.

Two Yazidi girls, 14 and 11, were said to be living in a tent with a woman loyal to the Islamic State in the al-Hol camp in eastern Syria, where tens of thousands of Islamic State family members are being detained, said Mahmoud Rasho, the Yazidi leader.

They didn’t want to be rescued.

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Iraq: Not a Homecoming

Belkis Wille writes for Human Rights Watch:

In December 2018, I witnessed the violent closure of Kilo 18, a camp in Anbar given that designation because it was 18 kilometers from the town of Ramadi in central Iraq. The scene was awful: families screaming at soldiers, demanding an explanation for their expulsion; others quietly huddled together, their flip-flopped feet caked in cold mud, by their now-empty tents.

These were families who wanted to return home but were not being allowed to by the army and their local communities because they were perceived to have links to ISIS. Most often it was because a father, brother, or son was alleged to have taken up arms with the group. Now they were being told they had to leave the makeshift tents that had been home for the last few years and move to yet another camp. Any hopes of a true homecoming—back to the towns, villages, cities where they made their lives before Iraq tumbled into chaos in 2014—seemed more remote than ever. For many, going “home” is complicated, fraught, even dangerous. For others, it is impossible.

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Iraqi Shi’ite groups deepen control in strategic Sunni areas

John Davison writes for Reuters:

The only sign that Sunni-majority Mosul’s newest and busiest marketplace is in Shi’ite Muslim hands is a small plaque in the office of its leaseholder from Baghdad.

“The Imam Hussein Market,” it reads, dedicated to the Prophet Mohammed’s grandson and most revered Shi’ite imam.

Banners of Shi’ite leaders that militiamen erected after helping drive out the Sunni extremists of Islamic State two years ago have been removed amid fears of renewed sectarian tension.

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Nobody wants us: The plight of displaced female-headed families in Iraq

Razaw Salihy writes for Amnesty International:

Amnesty International and other organizations have continuously documented the collective punishment of displaced families, especially female-headed families. Many are perceived as supporters of the Islamic State armed group (IS) due to factors outside their control - such as being related, however distantly, to men who were somehow involved with IS - and are ostracized by the rest of society. Such families have reported being forcibly displaced, evicted, arrested, had their homes demolished or looted or faced threats, sexual abuse and harassment, and discrimination after returning to their places of origin.

Today, left in the camps, they continue to face obstacles in accessing identity cards and other official documents. Without these, women are unable to work, move freely or inherit property or pensions, and their children are often unable to attend school or obtain medical care and are at risk of becoming stateless.

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Careem delivers ride-hailing to Iraq’s second-largest city Basra

Nada El Sawy writes for The National:

Ride-hailing company Careem has extended its services to the southern Iraqi city of Basra in the latest expansion for the company. It currently operates in Baghdad and Najaf and has an ongoing pilot project in Erbil. The service will use existing taxis throughout the city, catering to a population of around 2.5 million.

“We are proud to launch our services in Basra today, an important strategic location for us and look forward to serving the people and create job opportunities for the youth of this great city,” said Mohamed Al Hakim, the general manager of Careem Iraq. “Within the next five years, our vision is to serve hundreds of thousands of customers and create more than 10,000 job opportunities in Basra.”

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Iraq begins examining Yazidi mass graves remains

Qassim Abdul-Zahra writes for AP:

Iraq will use DNA testing to identify the remains of 141 bodies found in mass graves believed to contain the Yazidi victims of Islamic State group massacres, the head of the country’s forensics administration said on Sunday.

Zaid al-Yousef said Yazidi survivors helped to locate the 12 graves in the Sinjar region in north Iraq.

Iraq is working to exhume remains from mass graves for forensic evidence of the IS group’s crimes when it ruled over parts of the country’s north from 2014 to 2017. It is supported by a special U.N. investigations team.

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In Iraq Museum, There Are Things ‘That Are Nowhere Else in the World’

Alissa J. Rubin writes for The New York Times:

If people remember anything about the Iraq Museum, it is most likely the televised images of it being looted in 2003 as American troops watched from their tanks.

This spring, 16 years later, I was back at the museum. It had reopened in 2015 after conservationists had repaired some of the damage and European countries, among others, had helped restore several galleries. Still, I expected to see bare rooms and empty niches.

Instead, I found that despite the loss of 15,000 works of art, the museum was filled with an extraordinary collection.

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Iraq harvests go up in smoke, but who lit the fires?

Marwan Ibrahim and Ammar Karim write for AFP:

Resurgent jihadists, ethnic land disputes or regular field burning? Iraq's northern farmlands are on fire, but the area's complex patchwork of grievances has made it hard to identify the culprits.

Farmers in the country's breadbasket had been hoping for bumper wheat and barley harvests in May and June, following heavy winter rains.

Instead, many saw their hopes turned to ash.

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